New law to cut the cost of school uniform set to pass today – and it could save parents hundreds of pounds

THE cost of school uniforms is set to fall thanks to a new law – and it could save parents hundreds of pounds.

The school uniform bill is expected to get Royal Assent today, which is when the Queen agrees to make it into law.

In future, schools across England will have to make sure uniforms are affordable and branded items are expected to be kept at a minimum.

Many schools are said to insist parents buy expensive branded items, often from a single supplier, when standard kit would be cheaper.

A uniform costs £101.19 per child in secondary school on average, according to data by the Schoolwear Association.

For families with more than one child, the amount spent on uniforms can add up to several hundred pounds.

How to save on school uniform costs

UNDER the Education Act 1990, local authorities have the power to provide financial help to parents on low incomes to assist them with buying school clothing for their children.

But this is not a statutory duty in England.

Sadly, this means parents face a postcode lottery – as each council chooses whether to offer support, who is eligible and what items they will pay for.

The system is different in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, where councils are required to offer assistance.

Rules vary but generally you will qualify for a school uniform grant worth up to £150 in England if you receive one of the following:

  • Income support
  • Jobseeker's allowance (income based)
  • Child tax credit – provided you are not entitled to working tax credit
  • Employment support allowance (ESA)
  • State pension – this benefit must be your sole source of income
  • Support under Part IV of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999
  • Universal Credit

You may also be able to apply if your annual household income is less than £16,190.

You are likely to be asked to prove that you are legally responsible for the child by providing a recent copy of your bank statement confirming the payment of child benefit to your account.

If you think you're eligible, make sure you contact your council.

Research from The Children's Society has found that when parents have to buy two or more items from a specific shop, the average cost of a primary school uniform is currently around 50% more expensive.

The cost means a million kids' families currently have to cut back on food and other essentials to pay for it, according a report by the charity.

The school uniform bill was first introduced by Labour MP Mike Amesbury, with the backing of the Children's Society.

It's been delayed due to the pandemic, but then came back before MPs in March as pupils returned to schools.

The guidance for schools is still being formalised, but it's set to require them to consider price, alongside quality, design and place of manufacture.

The Sun has asked the Department for Education when the law will come into effect for schools, and we'll update this article once we hear back.

Mr Amesbury said: "The issue of expensive uniforms predates COVID but it’s more pertinent than ever because people have been on furlough or lost jobs as well as losing loved ones.

“This will make a real difference and bring the cost of school uniforms down, with the need for schools to put affordability front and centre in their uniform policies placed on a legal footing for the first time."

While Mark Russell, chief executive of The Children’s Society, said: "It’s been a long journey but we are delighted the bill has finally passed, making affordable school uniforms a reality for struggling families.

"We’ve heard of children being sent home from school because their parents could not afford the correct uniform and of families facing impossible choices like cutting back on food or heating in order to buy the right kit."

Matt Easter, co-chair of the Schoolwear Association, told The Sun it "welcomes the bill" and the guidance it'll give schools around their uniform policies.

He added: "In particular, we welcome the government’s recognition that the quality and longevity of garments should be considered alongside their cost.

"Whilst the vast majority of schools already work hard to keep their uniforms affordable, this bill is an important step to help them continue to make the best decisions on their uniform policies and offer the best support to parents."

Plenty of councils have axed their school uniform grants in recent years, freedom of information requests by The Sun has found.

Meanwhile, members of union Unison can access grants of between £50 and £150 if they meet other income criteria.

And struggling parents who work in supermarkets can apply for a £150 grant to help with the cost of school uniforms. 

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